New York University professor and global economist Nouriel Roubini testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking last week, saying cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin are the mother of all scams and bubbles.
He followed that assertion up by calling blockchain, the technology unpinning bitcoin, “the most over-hyped — and least useful — technology in human history.”
Today, Roubini doubled down on his claims in a column published on CNBC.com in which he said blockchain has promised to cure the world’s ills through decentralization but is “just a ruse to separate retail investors from their hard-earned real money.”
Blockchain, which can be used to create a decentralized, permissioned electronic ledger for all kinds of business transactions, “has not even improved upon the standard electronic spreadsheet, which was invented in 1979,” Roubini wrote in the op-ed column.
“There is no institution under the sun – bank, corporation, non-governmental organization, or government agency – that would put its balance sheet or register of transactions, trades, and interactions with clients and suppliers on public decentralized peer-to-peer permissionless ledgers,” Roubini wrote. “There is no good reason why such proprietary and highly valuable information should be recorded publicly.”
Roubini is known for having been one of the few economists who predicted the 2008 financial crisis. Yet, after witnessing bitcoin’s fall in value over the past year, Roubini said it and other cryptocurrencies represent the mother of all market bubbles, enticing investors, “especially folks with zero financial literacy – individuals who could not tell the difference between stocks and bonds” – into a frenzy of bitcoin and crypto buying.
Does Roubini understand cryptocurrency and blockchain?
Roubini’s testimony before the Senate Banking Committee was “certainly entertaining and will get lot of media attention,” said Vipul Goyal, an associate professor in the Computer Science Department at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). “However, it’s unclear to me if he is really a technology expert and understands the world of crypto,” he added.
Goyal pointed to leading tech vendors such as Amazon, IBM, Microsoft and Oracle who are investing heavily in blockchain and have rolled out blockchain-as-a-service offerings (BaaS) that let businesses use the cloud to create permissioned blockchains for business partners to use.
Prior to becoming a professor at CMU, Goyal worked as a Microsoft researcher for seven years. He noted that while he was employed there, Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, spoke multiple times about his vision for blockchain.
“Surely, these are not naive gullible people which Roubini talked about,” Goyal said.
Created in 2009, a single bitcoin’s value as a universal digital currency skyrocketed in 2017 and early 2018, reaching $19,666 at its apex last year. Over the past nine months, however, bitcoin’s value has tumbled more than 65% to about $6,500 today. Roubini called the collapse the “crypto-apocalypse.”
At the same time bitcoin’s value was plummeting, the technology underpinning it was growing in popularity as a business transaction tool, enabling a “permissioned” or private electronic ledger that is both immutable and transparent to anyone authorized to view it in a group.
Blockchain has been piloted and rolled out for cross-border financial transactions, as a platform for supply chain management and as the basis for a new “trust economy.” Even healthcare facilities are investigating the technology as a way to securely exchange patient healthcare information.
In some ways, blockchain is a victim of its own success, Goyal said, noting that blockchain was taken “public” too soon.
“Wall Street and financial investors started tracking it on a daily basis and that became the measure of success rather than how the underlying technology was developing,” Goyal said.
Any disruptive technology takes several years to play out, become mature and find its place in the world, he said. The internet, Goyal noted, needed a decade to gain traction, and AI took even more time. Even cloud computing took several years to catch on, he said.
“I think one should be patient and give [blockchain] time to mature rather than pass a sweeping judgement without any technical understanding just based on the price of cryptocurrencies,” Goyal said.
Martha Bennett, a principal analyst at Forrester Research, said that while blockchain is not unique in its ability to securely exchange data among disparate parties, other technologies lack key blockchain attributes.
For example, blockchain-based architectures provide the basis for exchanging data and automating processes in a shared infrastructure, without any single party being in charge, Bennett noted.
“This, combined with the innovation opportunities inherent in the tokenization of digital and physical assets, means that we can build new business and trust models,” Bennett said via email. “However, we need to design these first; evidence to date suggests that this is going to be the hardest part.”
FinTech is the real revolution
Roubini was adamant, however, arguing that the real revolution in financial services is FinTech – and it has nothing to do with Blockchain or crypto.
“It is a revolution built on artificial intelligence, big data, and the Internet of Things,” he said.
Thousands of businesses such as PayPal, Venmo and Square use FinTech to disrupt every aspect of financial intermediation involving hundreds of millions of daily users in the US. Around the globe, billions more use similar low-cost, efficient digital payment systems such as Alypay and WeChat Pay in China; UPI-based systems in India; and M-Pesa in Kenya and Africa, according to Roubini.
A blockchain solution from IBM and Maersk can help manage and track the paper trail of tens of millions of shipping containers across the world by digitizing the supply chain process.
“And financial institutions are making precise lending decisions in seconds rather than weeks, thanks to a wealth of online data on individuals and firms,” Roubini said. “With time, such data-driven improvements in credit allocation could even eliminate cyclical credit driven booms and busts.”
James Wester, IDC’s research director Worldwide Blockchain Strategies, said he read all 37 pages of Roubini’s Senate testimony and while some of his criticisms are “slightly overstated,” they’re not off-base – especially the ones concerning bitcoin, blockchain and financial services.
Blockchain and other cryptocurrencies are currently less efficient than existing solutions for clearing and settling a high volume of transactions, Wester noted.
For example, Roubini accurately pointed out that because its proof of work (PoW) consensus mechanism requires nodes (servers) to complete a complicated mathematical problem as a way of authenticating new data entries, bitcoin only allows for five to seven transactions a second.
“It is secure – so far – but at the cost of no scalability,” Roubini told legislators. “And since its mining is now massively centralized – as an oligopoly of miners now control its mining – its security is at risk.”
After piloting a blockchain-based supply chain tracking system, Walmart and Sam’s Club are telling suppliers to get their product data into the system so they can begin tracking produce from farm to store. The deadline: September 2019.
Industry groups, including the Ethereum Foundation, have taken on the challenge of increasing the scalability and performance of blockchains.
“But, he [Roubini] insists on using a very narrow definition of ‘blockchain’ that discounts implementations and use cases that are already seeing some traction and success,” Wester said via email. “For instance, he says private permissioned blockchains are ‘not truly a ‘blockchain.'”
Wester took the biggest exception to Roubini’s implication that everyone involved in blockchain is a charlatan.
“There are certainly people who are selling blockchain as a panacea for just about everything that plagues humanity, but even within the community of technology providers, programmers and more who are involved in blockchain projects – those people are not taken seriously,” Wester said.
“There are also plenty of thoughtful, smart people involved in blockchain across multiple industries who are looking to apply the technology – even as Professor Roubini defines it – to solve some interesting problems,” he continued. “It might be more fruitful to engage them in good faith.”
LG is known for its wide-angle camera and is unique in using it on its smartphones. This year, it went camera crazy by rolling out the LG V40 ThinQ with five cameras. Three are on the back and two are on the front.
The three rear cameras include a 12MP standard lens, a 12MP telephoto one, and a 16MP wide-angle variant. A standard 8MP shooter with a 5MP wide-angle camera are found on the front. On the rear, one click can capture images through all three and give you multiple ways to view the content in your viewfinder.
The LG V40 continues what we saw in the LG G7 with a headphone jack, Quad DAC, Boombox speaker, IP68 dust and water resistance, and more. A 3,300 mAh battery seems a bit light for a 6.4 inch display, but we’ll have to see how it performs as reviews roll out.
Price: The LG V40 launches on 19 October and will be available from all major US carriers for a price ranging from $920 to $970.
It sounds like new Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg is making some serious leadership changes. I think this is exactly what he needs to do. The reason is his desire for Verizon to be a leader once again in the coming 5G wireless revolution. If they want to be a leader, not a follower going forward, then they need to make some serious changes. Good goal. Next question, will he be successful?
Over the last decade, Verizon has been a mixed bag of successes and failures. Over that time, they have generally rewarded investors and had happy customers. They are the highest priced competitor, but their network is no better than AT&T. They used to be a leader in the wireless and telecom space, but that was a long time ago.
Today, they are a follower, not a leader. As we move to 5G, it will transform not only the wireless industry, but every other industry as well. That’s why it is very important for every 5G wireless player to have a high profile.
5G growth opportunity for AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, Sprint
That’s why Verizon needs to re-invent itself. Today their image is not seen as an industry leader. Why they fell behind has always been a mystery to me.
As an example, consider how 5G will impact the pay TV industry. It will be fast enough to carry a pay TV signal to the home and office. That means, new competitors in the pay TV space will come in and start to compete wirelessly.
5G will being so many changes to the way we use our smartphones, but it will also transform other industries. There is quite a bit of growth opportunity for the wireless networks like AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile and Sprint.
In this mix AT&T and T-Mobile have the highest profile positions. Verizon and Sprint are too quiet for their own good.
In today’s marketplace, we have learned that competitors need to generate excitement and noise. While Verizon has a good reputation, they have two weak areas. One, they are the highest priced carrier in the industry. Two, they have been too quiet for their own good.
Can CEO Vestberg transform Verizon from follower to leader?
That’s what needs to change. So, this is the question. Can Vestberg transform Verizon from a follower to a leader? He is interviewing every senior level executive at the company and will decide who will lead different parts.
This is very nerve wracking for the executives but should let the best rise to the top like cream. However, while this is tough for executives, I think this attitude may be good for the company, long term.
Verizon used to be a leader in the changing wireless and communications space. In the past, they have made many moves which have not only transformed the company but have kept up with the changing industry.
However, in the last decade they have been too introverted, and they made many mistakes. They were less interested in building their image by focusing on public relations, advertising and marketing. Their efforts in these areas have been very soft. Too quiet for their own good.
During the last year, they have done a better job in their television advertising, talking about how Verizon works with other industries, helping them to transform and improve. This has been a welcome change. While that alone is not enough, it is a great start.
Now Vestberg has stepped into the CEO position. This is where he needs to take Verizon. As I have been saying, it really depends what they do next. Under their new CEO, will they have a higher profile? Will they now be known as a leader or continue as a follower?
To be successful as the wireless industry transforms to 5G, networks need to attract attention to themselves. They need to lead. They need to build their retail and their wholesale business. They need to focus on their wireless and wire line business. This is something Verizon has not done a good job at for the last decade.
So, will Vestberg be successful at changing the direction of the company’s efforts? That’s the big question. I think he looks like he is doing the right thing by interviewing every existing senior executive. It will keep company executives on their toes.
If he keeps the best and continues to move forward, Verizon may once again become an industry leader. If not, it will remain a quiet spot in the noisy industry. Now, we wait and see what happens next.
This article is published as part of the IDG Contributor Network. Want to Join?
Why you should avoid: This thing is a total fossil!
Once the low-cost gateway device into the Mac ecosystem, and a really popular gift for the holidays, the Mac mini last saw refresh love from Apple in October 2014.
Nothing about the Mac mini makes sense any more. The form factor was based around the footprint of an optical drive, and the idea was that those switching up from a PC could keep their old peripherals and just slot the Mac mini into their workflow. Nowadays the focus is more on laptops, and the Mac mini feels like a relic of a bygone era.
But it’s a shame. I’ve owned a number of Mac minis and they were all awesome workhorses. It’s also a real shame that Apple has nothing to replace them with, especially since it was a popular choice for PC-to-Mac switchers.
Rumor has it that Apple might be readying a refresh. While I’d love to see a new Mac mini, I’m not holding my breath!
Hardware last updated: October 2014.
Some readers recently challenged my assertion that Google needs to provide a real run-time version of Chrome OS that can be installed on hardware or in a VM.
Since May, Google apparently has provided, as a developer preview, form factor simulation of Chrome OS display devices in Android Studio — similarly to how the company has provided for different Android smartphone and tablet device form factors in the past.
It has been pointed out that Google’s solution for developers is essentially no different than how Apple does things with iOS and the Mac — so why complain? However, I disagree with the premise that a simple display mode simulation is sufficient for Android application development and testing in Chrome OS.
But this debate got me thinking about how Google and its boosters consider the search giant to be occupying a privileged position in the mobile industry when, really, it is not. Google is displaying a very different type of arrogance than what Apple and its supporters have.
Google seems to be behaving like Apple
Apple is an established leader in the space, with 12 years on iOS with iPhone and eight years with iPad. iOS has massive app revenues and an extremely committed and loyal user base. Apple’s success entitles it to a certain degree of arrogance.
But this arrogance may one day prove to be the platform’s undoing: iOS is getting stale, and it had some recent qualitative issues to deal with in iOS 12. For now, Apple is fine, because it has hundreds of billions of dollars in its coffers, and continues to make huge loads of money as a hardware vendor, a mobile application reseller, and content services vendor. So the incentive to change isn’t there. For now.
Google, on the other hand, seems to be behaving lately like Apple even though it has not earned such bragging rights. Yes, Android itself is a very proliferous platform in terms of open source community buy-in and vendor adoption. Plus, it’s great for getting users on Google’s (predominantly free and ad-supported) services, but it doesn’t engender the loyalty iOS does and it is a fractured mess of apps using many different API levels.
The third-party developer app revenue on Android is nowhere near iOS, because Android users just plain do not do in-app purchases the way iOS users do. So, that is problematic.
Android is a disaster as a tablet platform
Unlike Google itself, very few developers have adopted Material Design to create universal apps that function well on different Android form factors — as Microsoft has with its large stable of Android apps.
In fact, Microsoft has bought into the idea of Material Design so much that it built a similar design language for Windows 10 applications: Fluent Design.
But Microsoft is a bit of an enigma in the Android space when it comes to buying into modern app design.
The majority of Android phone apps on tablets are stale and look dated; on Chrome OS, which is a windowing desktop operating system, they look even staler.
Android lacks consistent polish in the UX, and the Play Store is not as heavily curated in the way Apple does by periodically forcing developers in the App Store to adapt to new APIs and OS releases or the apps get kicked out.
Most importantly, there’s still massive fragmentation in Android OEMs keeping their base operating systems updated and patched — the “Toxic Hellstew” my ZDNet colleague Adrian Kingsley-Hughes is so famous for coining.
Despite these issues, as a smartphone platform, Android is doing very well. But as a tablet platform, Android has been a disaster if we compare it to iPad or even Surface. So, now, Google is going to try to leverage a bit of limited success with Chromebooks in educational verticals by attempting to make it into its tablet/convertible platform to compete with iPad and Surface/Surface-ish stuff.
Also: 10 apps that make Chromebooks feel like a real desktop TechRepublic
Google needs to rally the developer troops
News flash: Unless Google can rally the developer troops to clean out their crufty code from the Play Store and wholesale adopt Material Design, it will fail to make Pixel Slate and Chromebook a real tablet and desktop application platform.
It’s not unlike the “Better Android than Android” experience that Blackberry attempted and failed to do with its ill-fated QNX-based PlayBook (which I liked a lot) back in 2011, with Android apps running on it, in a half-baked way.
Or as a much earlier example, how IBM made Windows 3.1 apps run on OS/2 in the 1990s because it could not secure native application adoption on that platform. I liked that platform a lot, too.
On paper, it sounds like a good idea to leverage Android as a development environment for Chrome OS. But Google hasn’t done the needful in making the apps run well as tablet or windowed apps in a number of respects, not just the Material Design optimizations.
Every time this approach has been attempted instead of promoting native application development on a newer system it has been a disaster. This was first described as the “Second System Effect,” by author Fred Brooks in his work The Mythical Man-Month in 1975, in which he notes that small, elegant and successful systems tend to be succeeded by over-engineered and bloated systems due to inflated expectations and overconfidence.
Does all this sound familiar?
Indeed, it could be argued that Microsoft as well has not fully been able to pull this off either, and it has had its share of dealing with Second System effects, such as with Vista succeeding Windows XP.
I would argue that Microsoft has learned from that because Windows 7 was very successful. Windows 8 and 8.1 were absolutely Second System disasters, but a lot of the technology was later leveraged to become Windows 10, which is probably the best version of Windows ever released.
Still, Microsoft has had its ongoing challenges in kicking the can. With Windows 10 it has been experiencing a reverse Second System Effect, with new modern APIs and PWA stuff — that are arguably more elegant programmatic models — which are not anywhere near as successful as the legacy Win32 apps which have been running on Windows for decades now.
Developer uptake on those new Windows APIs hasn’t been as fast as the company wants. The failure of Windows Phone/Windows 10 Mobile is a very painful example of that. But that is a different problem.
The Osborne Effect
With more details of Fuchsia OS and the Zircon microkernel as future platforms for Google coming out of the woodwork at security conferences, and Google already promoting Flutter APIs as a future development target, it’s going to be difficult to motivate developers to fix their legacy Android apps to run well on Chrome OS, especially when they know they are going to have to re-code everything in the next two or three years, unless Google makes it very easy to make that transition.
There’s another phenomenon that describes the premature discussion of a successor platform: The Osborne Effect. And that’s exactly what all this Fuchsia and Flutter talk is going to precipitate if Google is not careful in the way it handles its developer ecosystem.
(How about Fluffernutter? Is that an appropriate new term for Google vaporware?)
What does Google need to do in order to make Chrome OS a successful developer platform and improve user adoption as a desktop and tablet operating system? Talk Back and Let Me Know.
Previous and related coverage:
Google wants to disrupt with its stateless, cloud-focused desktop operating system. But it needs to become much more viral with exploitative apps if it expects it to succeed beyond just being a niche platform for education and light computing tasks.
Google also announced the $199 Pixel Keyboard and $99 Pixelbook Pen.
The company debuted its phones for 2018, a camera-free home control center and a new detachable Chrome OS tablet.
One of the biggest fundamental differences is that while the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max are equipped with OLED displays, the iPhone XR is kitted out with a cheaper LED display.
But don’t let that make you think that you ware getting an inferior product. In fact, Apple claims that its 6.1-inch “Liquid Retina” display is the most colour accurate on offer in a smartphone, with wide colour support and True Tone for a more natural viewing experience.
The display sizes are also different. While the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max have 5.8-inch and 6.5-inch displays respectively, the iPhone XR is in the middle, sporting a 6.1-inch display.
The US hasn’t had an ambassador to Australia in place for two years, the longest stretch since WWII—which may explain why things are getting low-key chaotic Down Under at the American embassy. The BBC reports that an apology has been issued after a “training error” resulted in a rather…
This month’s Windows 7 Monthly Rollup, KB 4462923, appears to be on the skids.
But I’m seeing more and more reports like this one that KB 4462923 is no longer available from Windows Update.
It’s possible that Microsoft is actually going to fix the chicken-and-egg problem with the Servicing Stack Update KB 3177467 that I talked about last week. Or maybe not.
According to @abbodi86:
KB 4462923 is not completely pulled, they just moved it behind the scenes. They have done that before with multiple rollups that have issues. It won’t show up normally. You need WUMT or a VBS script to ignore the download-priory attribute. Of you can hide/clear all other updates in Windows Update. Probably they are waiting or trying to figure a way to fix Windows Update metadata and solve the Servicing Stack Update dependency issue
If you suddenly see KB 4462923 in Windows Update, please drop a line on the AskWoody Lounge.
A vulnerability has been discovered in the Apple iOS VoiceOver feature which can be exploited by attackers to gain access to a victim’s photos.
As reported by Apple Insider, the bug, a lock screen bypass made possible via the VoiceOver screen reader, relies on an attacker having physical access to the target device.
Revealed by iOS hacker Jose Rodriguez and subsequently demonstrated in the YouTube video below, the attack chain begins with the attacker calling the victim’s phone. This can be made possible by asking the Siri voice assistant to read out the phone number digit by digit, should the attacker not possess this information.
Once a call has been made, the attacker must then tap on “Answer by SMS,” and then select the “personalize/custom” option.
Any words can be input at this stage as the phrases are irrelevant, but it is key for the attacker to ask Siri to turn on VoiceOver at this point. The camera icon must then be selected, and following this, the attacker must double-tap on the screen while invoking Siri through side buttons at the same time.
It might take a few tries to trigger the bug, but when successful, this will turn the target device’s screen black — which is potentially the result of OS confusion or conflict.
The attacker can then use this bug to access elements of the user interface, such as the image library, which should otherwise be restricted without knowing the victim’s passcode simply by swiping left.
Once access has been gained to the photo album, it is possible to double-tap photos to return to the call SMS reply box and add the content to the message. These images can then be stolen and sent to the attacker’s personal mobile device.
TechRepublic: Photos: Apple iPhone models through the years
While the actual graphics of each image are obscured by the message box at this point, they can still be accessed and viewed after they have been added to the message.
The publication confirmed that the vulnerability is present in current iPhone models running the latest version of the mobile operating system, iOS 12.
See also: iOS 12’s most annoying bug yet
In September, well-known Apple security expert Patrick Wardle revealed a zero-day vulnerability in Apple Mojave on the day of OS update’s release which, if exploited, could result in the theft of user contacts information.
The disclosure followed Wardle’s previous findings of a macOS bug which could lead to full system compromise.
ZDNet has reached out to Apple and will update if we hear back.